Seeing as yesterday was April 1, troopers at the Delaware State Police barracks in Dewey Beach were doubtful, to put it mildly, when the report of the loose alligator came in.

But after several phone calls, the people at the Draper-King Cole cannery at nearby Milton were able to persuade the troopers that it was no April Fool's joke; a five-foot alligator had shown up, sloe-eyed and slappy-tailed, in a load of green beans trucked in from Jupiter, Fla.

Bill Dellinger, cannery traffic manager, said the beast was found at 8 a.m.

"There was a lot of surprise and probably a lot of honest terror around here, because this was no toy alligator," Dellinger said. "It was a pretty dangerous and formidable creature at 8 in the morning"--as it would be, one is tempted to add, at any hour of the day.

George O'Shea, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, captured the alligator and took it to the zoo in Salisbury, Md.

Delaware State Police Cpl. Frank Eschen said troopers were "naturally suspicious of the alligator phone call because of the day it was." But repeated calls persuaded them it was a real emergency.

Eschen said calls to Florida disclosed that rain had delayed loading the truck, and that the green 'gator apparently climbed into a crate, escaping notice.